The frequent debate on the quality of the Premier League is always headlined by the fact that teams in La Liga do much better in European competition. The Premier League doesn’t compare because the best players in the world all play in Spain, and no one from the Premiership makes the FIFA world XI.
One thing that can’t be argued is the entertainment factor that the Premiership brings. This weekend there were no draws across the weekend’s action, with 4 teams scoring 4 goals? The weekend’s action was highlighted by the enthralling contest between Chelsea and Liverpool.
2 of the best coaches in the world had set out their stalls early this season. Antonino Conte’s Chelsea came into this game unbeaten in the league, with key players Diego Costa and Eden Hazard back to their best. While Jurgen Klopp’s ‘gegenpressing’ style of football had seen an attacking force with with the most goals conceded in the top 6 going into Friday’s game.
The game was end to end football from kick off. But it was Liverpool who laid down a marker of intent with a 2-1 victory. Liverpool were 2-0 up before half time with goals coming from defender Dejan Lovren, and a wonder strike from midfielder Jordan Henderson put the game out of Chelsea’s reach.
The second half reached a fever pitch with Chelsea bearing down on the Liverpool goal on more than one occasion, and the reinvigorated Diego Costa getting his fifth in as many games for Chelsea in the league. Chelsea continued to beat down the door of Liverpool, but couldn’t find the equaliser.
Of course Liverpool will be delighted off the back of this game, this is the second big result they have had in London this season, after beating Arsenal on the opening weekend, and they did it by following Jurgen Klopp’s game plan to a tee. Pressing from the off, and taking advantage of the pace provided by the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Sadio Mane appeared to leave Chelsea overcome with caution from the kick-off.
The only issue for Klopp is Liverpool have yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season. But currently he seems happy with the “we’ll outscore you philosophy”
Antonio Conte, was made aware of how vital john Terry still is to the Chelsea team. Chelsea, without Terry, lacked direction and leadership in defence on Friday, even though they were able to re-introduce the returning David Luiz as Terry sat this one out through injury.
The ex-England captain is not only still a formidable defender but he is the consummate organiser and would surely have lessened the chances of the shambolic marking that left Lovren in splendid isolation to turn in Liverpool’s opening goal.
Conte will have to look to other options, as he can’t continue to rely on Diego Costa to bail Chelsea out of trouble. It will be interesting to see how he adapts after Chelsea’s first loss of the season. Conte is learning the ways of the Premier League. And there is plenty for him to learn at Chelsea.
Next for Chelsea will be an away trip to Leicester in the EFL cup on Tuesday.
Liverpool play Derby away in the EFL cup, also on Tuesday.
2. Jack Wilshire needs more game time
The main reason that Jack Wilshire joined Bournemouth was to get more game time. He had been told by Arsene Wenger, that his game time at the Emirates would be limited this season. Wilshire made his first start of the season for Bournemouth, and it is clear he’s going to need a lot of game time to get back to his best.
He struggled from the off and while he had a 100% pass completion rate, the fact is playing against the inform team in the league Wilshire failed to assert his authority. He looked off the pace throughout his 68 minutes on the pitch.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe replaced striker Callum Wilson, who scored the winner against West Brom last week, with Wilshire to reinforce his midfield, but the move did not pay off. Wilshere clumsily shoved Nolito off the ball to concede the free-kick from which City scored their opener and the 24-year-old struggled to have an impact on the game. Wilshire conceded possession, a number of times during the game, and was hauled off after 68 minutes.
The visitors were also guilty of giving the ball away too cheaply and, although Josh King’s pace did cause City some moments of concern, they rarely had the ball long enough to use that as a weapon. Bournemouth had 35.7% possession in the match.
Eddie Howe was quick to defend Wilshire in his post-match interview “It was difficult for Jack in the first half, because he’s at his best when he has the ball, and we didn’t have too much of it,”
As Howe rightly stated, to get the best out of Wilshire, Bournemouth will need to get hold of the ball. However this is not something they have excelled at thus far, in their time in the Premier League. Wilshire may endure more of these kind of performances, until he has reached full fitness. It may be that Howe, and the Bournemouth fans will need to have patience with Wilshire until he can get a run of games under his belt.
Bournemouth play Preston on Tuesday in the EFL cup.
3. Everton could be top 4 contenders
Everton are 1 of 3 sides that have an unbeaten record in the Premiership, and following a convincing victory over Middlesbrough on Saturday afternoon, they find themselves up to second place in the league.
Ronald Koeman’s switch to Everton in the summer went under the radar, with the introduction of Pep Guardiola, Antonino Conte, and the return of Jose Mourinho, Koeman didn’t court any of the praise that his colleagues did.
However following the win on Saturday, Koeman has enjoyed the best opening five-game spell of any Everton manager in the Premier League. This has been done by improving the attacking intent of Everton, with the introduction of Yannick Bolasie looking like a shrewd move, as well as shoring up the defence following Stones summer move to Man City. The £12 million signing of Ashley Williams is looking like astute business.
As a result, Everton have conceded the second least amount of goals in the league this season. Special mention should also go to Gareth Barry, who was playing in his 600th Premiership game. Barry, who scored as well, has gone about racking up 600 appearances quietly and is enjoying a new lease of life under Koeman. He was rightly afforded a standing ovation as he was substituted with 2 minutes to go.
Koeman has a wealth of attacking talent at his disposal and the Dutchman showed last week, when he removed Ross Barkley at half-time against Sunderland that he is willing to chop and change to get the best from those resources.
Barkley, also hoping to force his way back into England boss Sam Allardyce’s squad, looked determined to prove his worth to Koeman at Goodison Park and his quick feet and change of pace caused problems for the visitors’ defence.
Koeman seems to be now getting the best from Bolasie, too, and it was the winger whose teasing, in-swinging cross from the right needed only the slightest of touches from Lukaku to take it past Middlesbrough keeper Victor Valdes to make it 3-1.
Dutchman Koeman will be delighted with his side’s attacking performance, and he would’ve been delighted with the position that Everton find themselves in at this early point of the season. While others, who were meant to fill out the top 4 struggle, Everton may well take advantage of this and try to nab top 4. Koeman has the experience, taking Southampton to a Europa League finish last season, and has the players in his squad to make a tilt at the top 4 slots.
Next for Everton is a home tie in the EFL cup against Norwich on Tuesday.
4. Manchester United are lacking balance
Before the international break, there was sense of revival around Manchester United. It seemed that Jose Mourinho had finally worked out a way to get the best out of his players. 4 wins in all competitions, and level on points with rivals Manchester City, everything seemed to be going right for Mourinho and United.
As the old cliché goes, what a difference a week makes, the loss to Watford marking United’s third loss in a row, and by the biggest score line as well. It is clear to see that following this loss, United are severely lacking balance across the team, and that Jose Mourinho doesn’t know his best XI
United have been playing predominately with a 4-2-3-1 system this season, the same system that drew the ire of fans under previous manager Louis Van Gaal, and the same system that saw Chelsea make the worst start to a Premiership title defence in history.
The issue with this system is Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini are playing defensive midfield in the set up, and neither is a defensive midfielder. To Fellaini’s credit he has had the better start of the two. Fellaini is quite disciplined and does not go wandering too much. He helps his centre-halves and, he keeps the ball well. But he is not clever enough to give Pogba direction, which he is clearly needing. Surely it is time to give Michael Carrick some game time in this role. He has the discipline to stay back and defend, and also allow Pogba to get up the pitch, and use his attacking attributes.
Pogba, remains lost at sea, although slotted alongside Fellaini, he isn’t a defensive mid, he is taking players on, but his killer ball seems to have stayed behind in Turin. For the third game in a row he was an invisible presence.
United, as they have done in the majority of their games this season, made a woeful start to the game, and deserved to be 1-0 down at half time. Despite a brief flurry after Marcus Rashford’s equaliser, United were second best throughout the afternoon.
It seems as if Mourinho is trying to jam too much talent into one team. United have a number of individual talents and threats that can win games on their own. But at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be room for Pogba, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Wayne Rooney.
Rooney once again came in for the majority of criticism. He huffed and puffed but ultimately came up with very little. A cross that he scuffed for a goal kick summing up his afternoon in a nutshell. Mourinho stated that Rooney was too good to be playing with his back to goal, when he took over United, he said that Rooney would be number 10.However Rooney was completely unable to set the tempo of game, to create chances, to make space for others, to threaten goal himself, in short, everything you would expect from an attacking midfielder in one of the Premier League’s biggest sides.
But it shouldn’t be panic stations at Old Trafford, because there is plenty of quality and talent in their squad, and lots of options in every department.
Mourinho just needs to find a better balance with his team in games like this where they have most of the possession, and make sure they are more creative, because United were a bit too predictable against Watford.
Like any manager who goes to a new club, Mourinho has brought in his own players but he also has to look at the ones who were already there, and work out which ones suit the way he wants to play. This is going to take time.
Next up for Manchester United is an away trip to Northampton in the EFL cup on Wednesday.
5. Southampton claim their first league win
Not every game in the Premiership this weekend was a goal fest, or a spectacle. But for Claude Puel it won’t matter, as Southampton got their first league win of the season at the fifth time of asking.
Southampton who suffered their usual summer exodus of players, and this time manager, were picked to struggle this season, especially with extra European commitments to contend with. However off the back of a 3-0 win on Thursday, Southampton were able to build on this to gain a scrappy 1-0 win over Swansea.
Charlie Austin added to the 2 he got in midweek against Sparta Prague, with his first league goal of the season. Austin who was unlucky to start on the bench following his mid-week heroics. But had a number of chances when he came on, and was disappointed not to get more.
“I should have had three. I’m frustrated, of course, [to be on the bench] as I scored twice in midweek but if the manager wants to rotate then he is the boss. We have a strong squad.”
For Southampton the frustration in their poor start stems from the fact that despite another summer exodus, there performance levels haven’t dropped. However this is a results business, and this was a big result for the Saints. The win was sufficient to push Southampton out of the bottom three and up to 14th but, far more critically at this early stage of Puel’s tenure, calm some of the first small ripples of restlessness. The huge cheer on the final whistle at St Mary’s was as much an expression of relief as appreciation.
Southampton have the quality to be comfortable this season, and more results like this, should keep the Saints on track to retain the Premiership status.
Southampton play Crystal Palace at home in the third round of the EFL cup on Wednesday.
By Rich Lee @RichLee2202